( File photo )

UPDATE: The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 was passed with a vote of 260-165: "House passes farm labor bill; industry shifts focus to Senate."

Fresh produce industry organizations are urging House members to approve the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, which they are voting on Dec. 11.

In a Dec. 11 letter supporting the legislation, agriculture groups commended the work of a bipartisan group of House members to agree on issues to resolve a farm labor crisis.

According to the letter, nearly 300 agriculture organizations have voiced support for the workforce bill, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 20.

The letter also asks senators to craft a version that “embodies the same spirit” as the house bill.

The legislation includes provisions that improve the H-2A program, establish a mandatory E-verify process for growers when hiring labor, and allows workers to apply for temporary and potentially permanent status to remain in the U.S.

“While we understand the president is working on a merit-based system for comprehensive immigration reform, the agricultural portion of immigration reform has historically been negotiated separately,” according to the letter. “This is because it has been an established fact that foreign workers are not displacing Americans on the farm, and their work here enables agricultural production to stay in America rather than going to other countries.

“For this reason, this bill does not interfere with the administration’s broader plan for overhauling the immigration system,” according to the letter.

Organizations that signed the letter include:

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